LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Child marriage can be prevented by simple interventions such as community conversations, school supplies for girls, and giving families economic incentives to delay marriage, according to research conducted in sub-Saharan Africa.
"One of the findings is that you can do a modest, cost-contained intervention that will make a difference," said Annabel Erulkar, lead researcher and Ethiopia country director for the Population Council, which carried out the study.
"When families and communities recognize the harms of child marriage, and have economic alternatives, they will delay the age at which their daughters get married," she said in a statement.
Each year over 14 million girls get married before their 18th birthday, while in sub-Saharan Africa more than a tenth of girls are married by 15, and four in 10 are married by 18, the Population Council, a U.S.-based charity, said.
Trials lasting three years took place in Tanzania's Tabora region, where the marriage rate for 12-year-old to 17-year-old girls is eight percent, Amhara region in Ethiopia, where it is 12 percent, and Cascades region in Burkina Faso where 18 percent of girls get married before 18.
In Ethiopia, girls aged 12 to 14 who had been offered school supplies were 94 percent less likely to be married at the end of the study that those who had not, according to the research published on Wednesday.
Older girls in Ethiopia, aged 15 to 17, were half as likely to get married when they were given two chickens for every year they remained in education. The offer of two goats led to a two-thirds drop in early marriage for the same age group in Tanzania.
In both countries the positive effect resulted from a combination of educational support, economic incentives and community conversations about social norms. The results from Burkina Faso will be released in 2016.
"Child marriage is not an intractable tradition," said Erulkar," noting that the cost of all three interventions was $44 per girl per year in Ethiopia and $117 in Tanzania.
In June the U.N. Human Rights Council adopted a resolution calling for an end to child, early and forced marriage, and recognising child marriage as a violation of human rights.